1988 - Volume #12, Issue #4, Page #04[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
MN Farmer Operates Sideline Limousine ServiceYou may think chauffeured limousine services are only for city folks, but Daniel Elliot disagrees. For the past 1 1/2 years, the Sacred Heart, Minn., fanner has provided chauffeured limousine service for rural folks living within a 60-mile radius of his farm.
Elliot drives his customers in a long, white 1979 Cadillac Deville with dark, tinted windows. When chauffeuring, he wears a plain black suit, white shirt, red tie and black chauffeur's hat.
His customers have included high school prom-goers, a group of elderly women out for an afternoon lunch, a grandmother taking her 9-year-old grandson out for pizza, fathers bringing their newborn babies and spouses home from the hospital and groups avoiding the dangers of drinking and driving. Weddings, anniversaries and proms, however, provide most of his business.
Elliot does more than just transport passengers from one place to another. He also likes "putting on the ritz" for them. "My rule of thumb for pleasing passengers is to think faster than the customer. It's part of the show - the novelty of it."
For example, for anniversaries and wed-dings, he supplies a chilled bottle of champagne and a long-stemmed silk rose. And when it's raining, he'll escort people into and out of buildings with an umbrella. If his passengers want to stop at a service station to use restrooms, he'll quickly fetch the bathroom keys.
Elliot charges $45 per hour with a 3-hour minimum. There's no mileage fee and time begins when Elliot picks up his clients. Elliot collects his fees in advance and a contract between parties is signed.
From April to October, Elliot averages 2 to 3 events weekly. He sometimes has bookings 6 months in advance, obtaining business by placing ads in the wedding sections of local weekly newspapers. He also leaves his name and photo in wedding books found in tuxedo and wedding dress shops. And he appears in parades. "But the best advertising," says Elliot, "is to drive around and hand out your card."
For Elliot, who farms 850 acres of corn, soybeans and sugarbeets with his father, the service provides a steady, off-farm income. Although Sacred Heart has slightly more than 600 people, there are 55 communities within a 60-mile radius. In developing his limousine-service business plan, Elliot found if he averaged one client per town annually, he could keep the business rolling.
In addition to the income, it's an interesting diversion from farming's rigors."It's a nice break from farming and I get to meet a lot of people. However, it does take up a lot of time on weekends, so my father and a neighbor school teacher occasionally do some of the driving," says Elliot, who put 15,000 miles on the car last year, and will probably exceed that this year.
Elliot purchased his 1979 Cadillac Devine for $14,000 from a custom coach builder in Gray Eagle, Minn. He located the limousine by scouring automobile advertising magazines. The factory-built Cadillac had been sliced in half and stretched 40 in. Although already nearly 10 years old, the limo looks like new because front-end styles have changed little since 1977.
Elliot has even worked out creative, alternative payment plans with a few customers. In exchange for an hour's limousine service, Elliot obtained a truck to haul his sugar beets out of the field. "Once a hog producer traded a market weight live hog for my service," says Elliot. "When the fellow decided he wanted additional car time, he also threw in the processing."
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Daniel Elliot, Rt. 1, Box 4, Sacred Heart, Minn. 56285 (ph 612 765-2376).
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